I came across very impressive monochrome series of photographer Cade Overton from Bristol, New Hampshire, USA. ‘Never Going Home’ is his aptly titled 3 year old project shot during extensive travels in connection with routine work. It became sort of a photo diary or documentation to give a vent to emotions, ennui, and observations. His project statement published elsewhere made me realized how tumultuous were those days for him! But I believe it shaped him as a photographer and his work got a whole new meaning.
These images from Cade’s new series ‘News From Nowhere’ bear a deserted look. There isn’t a soul amidst nothingness of the countryside. It’s nostalgic, soul-stirring at times, cold, a bit dreary, but with a decent remembrance of things past.
Please tell me about yourself and your relationship with photography:
I don’t really have a typical career. I have had a bunch of different jobs, but my personal photography work is really the big constant for me. These days I’m just trying to make sure I have the time and energy to work the way I want to, and to make photography more of a priority. I started shooting seriously as a teenager and ended up getting an art degree in college. I had a couple of different “photography” jobs that sort of left me burnt out and dissatisfied, so about a year ago I decided to just do something else for a living and save that energy for my personal work. I’m still figuring it out, but I’m definitely happier now.
Speaking about genres or classification, where do you think your work fits in? Can it be simply called fine-art or documentary-style photography?
I think it’s a combination of both. Most of my work has been about the human landscape. I like to think about the structures people put up, but I’m not interested in photographing the people themselves. I look for places that have a story to tell – the magic of these photographs for me is that there’s an untold story just standing there by the roadside. I’m documenting the existence of the place, but all these details are there for someone to take in and interpret however they want.
Like I said, I look for places that seem like they have some kind of history. There are also plenty of times where the weirdness and quirks of a place are good enough for me to want to take a closer look – for instance, the photo of the plastic horse up on a pole in front of a rotting barn. That was on the side of the road in Texas. That kind of thing just makes you go “what the hell is that about?” and turn the car around.
How do you view your evolution as a photographer? Did your extensive travels during ‘Never Going Home’ offer you new visions or insight?
That series was made over the course of two years, and I was getting sent all over the place for work. Finding things to photograph, as well as documenting my experience, was a way for me to feel like all of that travel was actually meaningful and worthwhile, because in the end my job kind of sucked. I had to work hard for a lot of those images too, because I was always worried that I was just taking tourist photos, especially when I went somewhere nice. So yes, that experience forced me to think differently – I couldn’t just leave my apartment and go for a drive with my camera. I was consciously trying to make a body of work while going to all of these different places, so I had to hold a couple of concepts steady in my head all the time, and I second-guessed myself constantly. In hindsight, it was very good for me. At the time, I was certain I was just wasting film!
These days I just get in the car with some idea of which roads I’m going to start out on. I live in a rural area now, so I take a map and just start exploring. There is no planning involved, but I am usually looking for a certain kind of thing. It’s always nice when something surprises me though.
Tell me about the cameras and lenses you mostly use and how you prefer to edit your work:
My favorite camera is the Rolleiflex. I love the square format, and the way the camera is designed is so clever and weird at the same time. For ‘News From Nowhere’ I used a Mamiya 7, which is probably my second-favorite. I am definitely a one-lens, one camera kind of person. Simplicity is important to me. Right now, my mentality is that if I can’t get the shot with the Rolleiflex, I just don’t shoot it. I shot digital for a little while, but I felt like it destroyed what little discipline I might have had, and I got sick of wading through thousands of images for five good ones. I’m not a huge fan of sitting in front of the computer, either, though it’s a necessary evil for editing.
In 2007 I received a fellowship that funded a 10-day trip to Iceland. I had always wanted to go there. I rented a car and drove around the coastline by myself and basically did nothing but photograph the landscape and explore the place. I am dying to go back and do it again! I think about that trip all the time. Also, having someone decide that your photography is worth funding is a huge confidence boost. I was pretty young at the time, and that opportunity was immensely important for me. To have someone basically say “we believe in you, go do your thing, here’s money, we’re stoked” is just incredible.
What are your future plans/projects, ambitions, aspirations etc.?
Besides trying to figure out how to fund another travel-based project, I’ve been shooting some new work around rural Maine and New Hampshire and will probably continue to do so through 2016, with the intent of producing a small book. Color photos this time! It’s very exciting.
I love Robert Adams. I saw an exhibition of tons of his work a couple years ago. Everyone makes these huge prints nowadays, but many of his were really small, and I loved that you had to get in there and concentrate on this 6×6 inch square. If you did, it was always worth it. Even his simplest landscapes are pure genius. There’s also this book called The Place of No Roads by Finnish photographer Ville Lenkkeri that I go back to all of the time. It’s large-format color photographs of mostly abandoned Russian coal-mining towns on Svalbard, and his writing and photographs together are quite absorbing. The book Faces of the North by Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson is also great.
Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers (or random words of wisdom):
Stay true. I made decent money for a while as a photographer for a tech company, but I hated it. Don’t do anything just for the money if you can avoid it.
All photos © Cade Overton : Website